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League of Nations Exhibition launched to mark the end of the Decade of Centenaries


League of Nations Exhibition and publication launched to mark the end of the Decade of Centenaries


Exhibition, presented in Dublin, Geneva, and the UN in New York, will mark 100 years since Ireland joined the League of Nations, heralding its arrival on the Global Stage


The League of Nations was the first worldwide state-level political organisation, created in the aftermath of the First World War. Ireland joined the League on 10 September 1923, and did so to emphasise that it was a sovereign state and an autonomous actor in world affairs. League membership was an essential part of independent Ireland’s first steps on the international stage.


Marking the centenary of Ireland’s membership of the League of Nations, the National Archives, in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Royal Irish Academy, has created an exhibition featuring records from its collections relating to Ireland’s membership of the League. The records, which have never been on public display before, feature official documents, photographs, recollections, letters and ephemera, and chart the exciting early adventures of the new State as it began to forge an international position for itself. From its earliest years in the League of Nations, Ireland advocated a peaceful world order and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means. These were the key goals of the League and Ireland knew that, as a small state which lacked great military and economic power, membership of a group of like-minded states such that the young League of Nations offered, was its best chance of surviving, and thriving, on the world stage.


Included in the exhibition is a special feature on Harry Clarke’s Geneva Window, commissioned by the Cosgrave Government in 1929 as a gift from the Irish State for the new International Labour Organisation building in Geneva.  The window consisted of vignettes from 19 Irish writers, but when it was completed in 1930, it was rejected by the Irish Government due to concerns about its content being perceived as being ‘immoral’. . .  Clarke died before any changes could be made to the window which was eventually returned to his widow.


The exhibition, On an Equal Footing with All, Ireland at the League of Nations 1923-1946, will be presented at both the Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska and the Dublin Festival of History before travelling to the UN in Geneva and New York.  A book has also been produced to mark this significant moment in the history of the Irish State and will be launched in New York in September during the UN High-Level Week followed by a Dublin Launch in October.


An Post will also release a new national stamp today marking the centenary.


Speaking ahead of the book launch, Tánaiste Micheál Martin, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence said:


Ireland’s membership of the League of Nations between 1923 and 1946 foreshadowed key approaches to foreign policy adopted by Ireland in the decades after the Second World War through membership of the Council of Europe, the United Nations and latterly the European Union. These were, like the League, established to promote international stability and co-operation recognising that, for small states such as Ireland to best safeguard their own interests, and those of others there was, and is, strength in numbers.”


Minister Catherine Martin, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media said:


Even before gaining independence from Britain in 1922, the revolutionary Dáil Éireann government had aspired to Ireland joining the League. But it was not until an internationally recognised independent Irish state came into being on 6 December 1922 – the Irish Free State or Saorstát Éireann, as Ireland was then known – that Ireland had the legal and international capacity to join the League of Nations.


It is therefore fitting as we come to the close of the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023, that we mark this historic event which represented and embodied the vision and ambitions of the emerging Free State, taking its place amongst the nations of the world.”


This exhibition is presented as part of the Government of Ireland’s Decade of Centenaries’ 2012-2023 National Programme.


The exhibition is presented by the National Archives, Department of Foreign Affairs and the Royal Irish Academy. 




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Editor’s Notes


The National Archives preserves the memory of the State in the form of its written records. It acquires and protects Ireland’s public records, thereby ensuring their availability as a resource for all. These records relate to the social, cultural, economic and political history of the island of Ireland from the Middle Ages through to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922 and into the modern era.


The exhibition will be accompanied by the launch of the Book, On an Equal Footing with All, Ireland at the League of Nations 1923-1946 a programme of panel discussions and curated talks to encourage historical enquiry and the understanding of the impact and legacy of the events that helped shape the State. 



Exhibition dates:


United Nations Building, Palais des Nations, 10 Geneva Dr 12533, Geneva

25September – 6 October 2023


Ploughing Championships, Ratheniska, Co. Laois

19 – 21 September 2023


Dublin Festival of History, Print Works, Dublin Castle

29 September to 1 October 2023


United Nations Headquarters, 405, Lexington Avenue, New York, 10174

20 November to 1 December 2023


Admission free.


Panel Discussions Dates:


An international gift that was never presented - The Geneva Window.

Saturday 30 September, 1pm

Dublin Festival of History, Printworks, Poddle Room


The Cosgrave administration officially asked renowned stained glass artist Harry Clarke to design a window as Ireland's present to the International Labour Office building in Geneva in 1927. The window was finished before Clarke passed away in January 1931, but it was never displayed.


Join Dr. John Gibney and Dr. Roisin Kennedy in discussion with Aoife Bhreathach to learn about the work of Harry Clarke, the commissioning of the window and how the censorship of literature impacted on the visual content and the attitudes of the people who commissioned the windows creation.


On an Equal Footing with All, Ireland at the League of Nations 1923-1946

Tuesday 3 October, 7pm

Royal Irish Academy


Chaired by Rory Montgomery, Former Diplomat, a panel discussion with historians Dr. Michael Kennedy and Dr. John Gibney, Royal Irish Academy, on Ireland’s entry to the League of Nations, its presence in Geneva from its early beginnings to the final years leading up to the League’s dissolution in 1946.


Book Launch Date:

On an Equal Footing with All, Ireland at the League of Nations 1923-1946

Edited by Dr. Michael Kennedy, Dr. John Gibney and Zoe Reid


19 September 2023

Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations

885 Second Avenue, 21st Floor New York, NY 10017 19 September



3 October 2023

Royal Irish Academy

Dawson Street

Dublin 2

3 October 7pm


An Post Stamp Programme


An Post will release a new national stamp on Thursday 7th September marking the centenary of Ireland’s admittance to the League of Nations. The stamp, produced by leading design house, Zero-G, is available at main post offices, Dublin’s GPO or online at